by Kristin Reed
In his “Message to the Grassroots,” El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (writing then as Malcolm X) argues that land is the first and most fundamental tenant of freedom. He makes a compelling case that this is a global truth, and the foundation for three centuries of major revolutions. His message to the grassroots is as relevant today as it was in 1963. Indigenous communities continue to fight for land access eroded by centuries of colonial advancement and treaty violations. Rural communities relaunch old fights for land rights anew as fracking expands across the American landscape. Throughout the nation economic and racialized disenfranchisement forces the question again in the form of housing. As in the nation, so it is in Richmond.
The last two decades have made Richmond a very different city, with rapidly changing demographics along lines of race and household income. While many agree Richmond is in need of development, we must carefully consider the ethical questions that underpin this endeavor: who should benefit from development, and who decides? Our current model of development does not favor a people-centered approach to wealth-building. Rather, we see a pattern of economic displacement that follows directly from Richmond’s history of racialized disenfranchisement.
Housing accessibility in Richmond today is in crisis. Affordable Housing is no longer accessible within range of available jobs. Public Housing faces an overhaul without clear participatory engagement from residents. In an economic system that so tightly ties geography to life outcomes, equitable housing access is, as the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute recognizes, “a critical element in our nation’s opportunity structure.” Meaningful housing access has the capacity to generate access to all of the target subjects of this film series: education, food, public safety, and wealth building. As our communities are dispersed through housing reduction, so too is their ability to self-organized impaired.
We invite you to join with a community of people concerned about housing access in Richmond for film, discussion, and solution-oriented planning. Join us at The University of Richmond Downtown on August 17th from 6:00pm to 8:30pm. The gathering is free, family-friendly, and part of an ongoing effort to bring Richmonders together in support of more equitable personal and economic advancement for all.